Because rheumatoid arthritis medications are known to have side effects -- some quite serious -- there is a growing interest in alternative therapies.
For rheumatoid arthritis in the early stages, an anti-inflammatory is usually the first choice. Typical anti-inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis medications include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
Aspirin, as most people know, can cause stomach upset and eventually ulcers. Ibuprofen has caused liver damage, anemia, intestinal bleeding, diminished vision and meningitis. People who have aspirin sensitive asthma may also be sensitive to ibuprofen. It has not been proven safe for use by children and should not be used by pregnant women or nursing mothers. These side effects and possible dangers are some of the reasons that people look for alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis.
Naproxen is another of the fast acting or anti-inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis medications. In clinical trials of patients taking naproxen, one to ten percent experienced one or more of the following adverse reactions: heartburn, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, vertigo, itching, sweating, hearing problems, visual problems, cardiovascular edema, heart palpitations, vomiting, gastro-intestinal bleeding, ulcers, anemia and other side effects.
Natural anti-inflammatory botanicals, nutritional supplements and herbal remedies may be considered as alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis.
Zinc, an essential mineral, has been shown to be capable of inhibiting the inflammatory response, but most studies of zinc supplementation in rheumatoid arthritis patients have been inconclusive. Like many supplements and alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, zinc seems to help some people and has no side effects, unless high doses are used.
Botanicals and herbal remedies which may be considered as supplemental or alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis include ginger root, bromelain, feverfew, turmeric and mangosteen.
Ginger, turmeric and mangosteen have all been used historically by native peoples to treat pain and reduce swelling. The effectiveness of ginger as an alternative to rheumatoid arthritis medications has been studied in clinical trials and indicates that it does show promise.
A small clinical study (18 patients) concluded that turmeric was nearly as effective as one of the anti-inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis medications, but it is not clear whether this was a placebo effect, since there was no control group. Additionally there is some disagreement concerning whether it should be used in the powdered form or as a tea.
Mangosteen is a relatively new and exciting addition to the western world as an anti-inflammatory. It was used historically by the native peoples of Thailand, Vietnam, India, China, Malaysia and the Philippines to treat a variety of bodily aches and pains.
The mangosteen is a fruit and its most readily available form is a drink that contains a puree of the fruit and its rind. It is important when purchasing mangosteen products to consider only the ones that include the rind, because anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory components and even Cox inhibitors are concentrated in it, as well as numerous vitamins and minerals.
While no human clinical studies have been completed to date concerning mangosteen's efficacy as an alternative or supplement to rheumatoid arthritis medications, numerous laboratory studies have shown that certain of the "xanthones" (powerful anti-oxidants) are anti-inflammatory and Cox-2 inhibitors.
Alternative Therapies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
According to Dr J. Frederic Templeman, M.D. in response to the question "Will the Mangosteen help with pain?" he states: "...Presumptively the mangosteen inhibits the pain-related action of the Cox-2 enzyme in the CNS [Central Nervous System] and blocks pain impulse generation.
So yes, the mangosteen may significantly reduce any pain you might be experiencing." [End Quote]
Prescription Cox-2 inhibitors are being shunned by a great many people due to their numerous undesirable and serious side effects. Indeed, the Cox-2 inhibitor, Vioxx(TM), was taken off of the market worldwide for a time because of the health dangers associated with it and has embroiled Merck in a nightmare of legal woes.
Lab rats or cell lines have been used to conduct mangosteen research and there were no reported side effects. It is believed that because the mangosteen contains the anti-ulcer compounds ascorbic acid, beta carotene, fiber and pectin, it would not have any of the gastric side effects common in anti-inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis medications.
Other compounds found in the fruit may promote heart health and are anti-hypertensive, so health problems associated with prescription Cox-2 inhibiting rheumatoid arthritis medications should not occur with mangosteen usage.
It is possible that mangosteen could one day be considered an effective supplemental or alternative treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. Hopefully, at some point, clinical studies can confirm this, but research is expensive and usually funded by pharmaceutical companies, which is why there are so few studies of the effectiveness of herbal and botanical remedies, particularly in the United States.
Studies of alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis have shown that diet plays a possible role. Patients who have used a diet that excluded common food allergens such as grains, milk, nuts, beef and eggs reported being symptom free for as long as five years, as long as they stuck to the diet.
In addition to or as an alternative to anti-inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis medications, some doctors prescribe corticosteroids like prednisone. But, while these may be effective for short-term relief of symptoms, long-term use of corticosteroids is known to cause many other health problems including diabetes.
In addition, they tend to lose their effectiveness, and can be habit forming. When a patient has been taking corticosteroid rheumatoid arthritis medications, they must be "weaned" off of them, meaning the medication must be gradually reduced before switching to alternative therapies for rheumatoid arthritis.